A good friend once told me I must be part Armenian, because I have a story for everything. Mutt though I am, I do not think this is true. Being Armenian, I mean; I dare not question the latter part. Today’s story involves the European postal system, whose very backwardness could inspire many more stories than the one I am about to tell, most of them of a more irritating nature. (The first of the postal system’s many backward ways is one I discovered the first time I tried to send a letter. While they will deliver directly to your door, they will not retrieve outgoing mail at the same time. I do not understand this. Instead, there are post drop off boxes, located around town and in a few lucky neighborhoods. My neighborhood is not so lucky.)
My story begins in France, although not by much. I am not very familiar with the French postal system, having been unable to even acquire the envelopes necessary to send letters while in that country, due to confusing and unconventional store hours. (Why would a convenience store be open from seven in the morning to six in the evening but take a four hour break after noon? I do not understand this.) I was, however, able to acquire postcards from one of the locations we visited, intending to send them to members of my extended family. Sadly, I miscounted, and upon my return, I found I had one postcard too few. This morning, I biked into town, and picked up a quaint little local one. The relatives I will be sending it to live in California, and I do not think they will be comparing cards with the rest of the family. (Actually, the postcard cost less to buy than it did to send – ,80 vs. 1,00.) Having filled this out and addressed it, I walked over to the nearby post office, having run out of stamps long since. I still had my postcard in hand. The nice man behind the counter greeted me in the typical German manner as I set this postcard down, and turned away to ask his coworker a question.
By the time he turned back, I had laid an additional eight postcards and seven letters on the counter.
“Zu Amerika?” I ask, a little nervous.
“Wie bitte?” he replies, a little shocked.
“Zu Amerika,” I repeat.
“Ah ja…” he says. “You write too much.”
Having not had any postage myself, he proceeded to apply it himself, running back twice to find more stamps. (Another of the postal systems backward ways is they still need to wet the stamps in order to stick them. Actually, I find this rather charming and old-fashioned.) Neither of us could keep from laughing at the veritable pile I had given him. From his reaction, I do not think he has ever had to deal with so many personal letters from one person before. When at the end I asked for an additional five stamps, he let out a long, amazed breath. I imagine this was the part where he realized my compulsive letter writing was not a one-time affliction, but an ongoing wonder. My final bill was just short of thirty Euro. (The European postal system, apart from being very backward, is also very expensive.)
So there you are, dear correspondents. If you did not receive a letter in the last week, you shall (hoffentlich) by the end of this. Armenian friend excluded. She is in Turkey, but I write her next.
Note: I do usually pay this much for postage. Today was a little odd because I had built up such a pile of unsent items. If this ever happens again, I will probably try to find a cheaper way to distribute my mailings, such as sending them in bulk to my home, and having my parents send them out again from there (and charging me later.) The reason why I do not usually do this is because it adds further delay to my letters arriving, and having to pay for American postage as well as German offsets the advantage sending them “cheaply” as a small package. I do not know of a better way to send hand-written letters via the post if I want my correspondents to receive more than one letter a month. If any of you have any bright ideas, please feel free to share them.